My Last Few Weeks at Google

Note: This was actually written in October, but it took a while for me to get around to editing and publishing it.

So, my internship is over (though you’d never believe it from the small number of posts I have written).  Various parts of this were written at different points over the last few weeks.

Project Really Getting Underway

As you know, Noogler training took up a large proportion of the first two weeks.  Once that was out of the way, I was able to start looking at my project.  It quickly became apparent that I didn’t know enough to start work on the project immediately – I needed to learn more C++ and how to use some specific Google technologies.  Of course, this wasn’t a problem, since a large part of the STEP (Summer Trainee Engineering Program) is about learning, so I spent 3 weeks increasing my C++ knowledge from Objective-C and learning the technologies.

By the second week in August, I was working directly on my project.  It felt like I was making slow progress, and the code was some of the most complicated I have worked with, but I got to a good point by the end of my internship.

Preparing for Interview

A major part of the last 3 weeks of my time at Google was preparing for my interview.  STEP Interns have go through (and pass) a somewhat reduced re-recruitment process to be selected for another Internship (this time a full internship).  I got the interview notification two weeks before the interview, which brought an end to the weekends spent hiking (below).  What did surprise me was how the interview revision guide provided by my recruiter was an almost 1:1 matching of the ‘Theory and Practise of Programming’ (TPOP) module from my course the year before.  It was certainly a surprising jump to go back to the fundamentals after working on stuff that was so far away from them for the whole summer, but it didn’t take long to get back to memorising pseudocode for some algorithms like Merge sort.  I mostly used ProjectEuler.net, but also made sure I could write basic algorithms for what was on the preparation guide.

T-shirts

One of the great things about working at Google was the T-shirts.  Sure, it wasn’t like it apparently used to be with the ‘help yourself closet’, but there were still lots free ones, and discounts to buy your own.  I think by the end I had about 25 pieces of Google clothing, which I’ll enjoy wearing around my CS department.

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Off-sites

As previously mentioned, the mentality at Google is really fun.  Whilst I was there, there were two team off-sites – the first was for the YouTube Analytics team to go Zip Wiring in Bern, which was fantastic fun.  It was fairly close to the start of our internships, so gave us Interns a chance to get to know each other a bit better ahead of working quite closely together for the coming weeks (since the three of us went around together on the zip lines and bridges).  It was certainly a lot of fun, and a new experience for me.

The second off-site was a little more ‘Google-Scale’.  All of YouTube in Europe got on a coach to go to the village of Alpbach in Austria for a two day trip, including a murder mystery and mini-hike around the mountains.  The murder mystery was incredibly well organised – a large amount of the village was taking part and the plot twisted and turned, going deeply into the community (visits to the local estate agent, a guy in a tractor, the local vicar and the hairdresser were necessary).  The hike in the morning was incredible – it was really interesting to notice the little differences between the Swiss mountain villages and the Austrian ones.  By coincidence I was also walking with some very experienced managers from the Zurich office and got the opportunity to chat and learn from them.

Google Glass

I also had the opportunity to try Google Glass upon our return from Alpbach, which was really awesome.  This has spawned a few ideas for Glassware that I’d like to build over my next year at University to help people with disabilities – there may be a post to follow about this.  Update: first post on this here.  A post with more details about the Glassware I decided to develop will be following soon.

Me with Glass

Me with Glass

Zermatt and Liechtenstein

Whilst in Switzerland I had the fantastic opportunity to hike in the mountains every weekend – a really nice change from University, where there is stuff to do in the weekends (although I’m not saying I didn’t make the odd office visit at a weekend).  There were three trips that really stood out – a trip to Vals to visit the famous Therme (after hiking there from the Dam), a trip to Liechtenstein to hike Rappenstein and a trip to Zermatt to hike around the Matterhorn for two days.  A small selection of photos included below.

Click on a photo to view larger

Final Days

The final few days were quite a rush.  A piece of code I had been working on for several weeks was still not quite finished and it needed documenting.  As well as sorting out my de-registration from the city of Zurich, I also wanted to spend some time in the last days of my internship reading and learning as much as possible from Google’s internal and very high quality teaching resources.

So, three questions remain.

Is it like the film?  Not really – we had a showing of the film – a cinema full of Googlers made it quite funny.  Some parts of the film are surprisingly accurate, whilst others couldn’t be further away (Interns, for example, do not compete with each other for jobs).

What do I feel I got out of everything?  Where do I start?  Both Engineering and Meta-skill wise, I learned a lot.  From how to use various Google technologies (both external and internal ones) to how they work, and from how a project is started to how it comes to fruition.  I also learnt a lot about how projects are developed in teams and about large scale development, as well as just how much fun work can be, and how true ‘work hard, play hard’ is.

I also learned a lot about myself – after arriving and realising the wealth of activities and opportunities, I made a deal with myself that I would say ‘Yes’ to every opportunity that presented itself to me.  I couldn’t be more glad that I did that – it meant I forced myself into things I would never have done before like, from a ‘Via ferrata’, to some all-day single-peak hikes, to hiking around the Matterhorn.

Doing the Via Ferrata in Zermatt

Doing the Via Ferrata in Zermatt

Would I do it again?  Definitely.  Without question.  For the sense of satisfaction and achievement I got from writing code at Google and for the amazing working environment.